Warrington Town went within one game of history after beating South Shields 2-1 at Mariners Park to book their place in the EVO-STIK Super Play-Off Final.
In front of a crowd of 2,337 – a season-high at Mariners Park – the hosts took the lead at the break courtesy of a fine Josh Gillies strike.
Nevertheless, Dylan Vassallo volleyed home an equaliser with 25 minutes remaining, before Josh Amis’ swivelled effort won it for the Yellows in the dying minutes.
South Shields pressed for an equaliser, but the closest they came was through substitute David Foley, who struck the side-netting in second-half stoppage time.
The win means that Warrington will play host to the winners of the EVO-STIK Southern section play-offs next Saturday, with the winner claiming promotion to the league above.
Paul Carden made one alteration to the side that started in Tuesday’s play-off semi-final victory over Nantwich Town. Bohan Dixon returned to take a place in the starting line-up, with Mitch Duggan dropping to the bench.
It was a typically frantic opening to the game, and with just two minutes on the clock, Town forced the first real chance of the game. Good work from Tony Gray and Dixon helped to get Jack Mackreth away down the right. His low cross was met at the near post by Dunn, who could only direct it over the top.
Nevertheless, Warrington continued to press in the early minutes, failing to give South Shields the time and space needed to get into their passing rhythm. They managed to force Liam Connell into a pair of saves, but both Gray’s firm effort and Jack Dunn’s low free-kick were comfortable stops.
As the half approached the midway stage, the hosts began to show glimpses of their quality, but after a low corner from the right was missed by two bodies, Robert Briggs fired well over from inside the penalty box.
Despite being under pressure for large swathes of the half, two key passages of play on the half-hour mark culminated in South Shields taking the lead. Moments after Tony Gray’s teasing cross from the left was agonisingly close to being turned home by Jack Mackreth, the hosts went down the other end and struck through Gillies, who did well to lash it into the top corner beyond the dive of Tony McMillan.
Warrington tried to strike back before the half-time interval, and despite some dangerous crosses in from Shaun Beeley on the right-hand flank, they were unable to force a real chance of note, Bohan Dixon coming closest to latching on the end of one of his testing deliveries.
The Yellows came out with renewed intensity after the break, but it was the home side that came closest to doubling their advantage eight minutes after the break. A delightful pass in behind split Mark Roberts and Alex Whittle open, and after McMillan initially smothered Shields’ first shot, Nathan Lowe’s follow-up shot was cleared in the six-yard box by Dave Raven.
With chances still at a premium, it was imperative that both sides took their chances, and Paul Carden’s side did exactly that midway into the half. A delightful cross by Mackreth was flicked on by Amis, before Vassallo rifled a sweet strike into the roof of the net beyond Connell.
Robbie Evans slipped at the crucial moment as he prepared to shoot seven minutes later, but it mattered little as Warrington showed their clinical instincts with their very next meaningful foray forward. After Vassallo’s teasing free-kick from the right wasn’t fully cleared, Ben Garrity rose highest to head down to Amis, who dispatched a shot through the legs of the Mariners keeper.
As stoppage time approached, the hosts went all out in pursuit of the goal that would take them to extra time. However, the closest they came was through Foley, who fired agonisingly wide with some sections of the crowd thinking his effort was in.
Nevertheless, Warrington hung on and can now prepare for their super play-off final in seven days’ time.
South Shields: Connell, Baxter, Lough (Foley 88), Shaw, Morse, Turnbull, Daly, Briggs, Finnigan (Harmison 84), Mason (Lowe 52), Gillies
Subs not used: Brown, Callaghan
Warrington Town: McMillan, Beeley, Roberts, Raven, Whittle, Garrity, Evans, Mackreth (Benjamin 90+2), Dixon (Amis 60), Dunn (Vassallo 20), Gray
Subs not used: Cusani, Duggan